Let’s Talk About Sexual Health
When we think about the term “health,” we generally think about physical health. Lately, mental and emotional health has been getting more (well deserved) attention. One area of health, however, we tend to overlook/forget about/ignore, is sexual health! When we do think about sexual health, most people think about preventing sexual violence and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). While these are important aspects, there are many more considerations. Sex should be consensual, fun and pleasurable, and affirming to the person’s identity. It is important to think about how we will manage and promote our sexual health, just as we would our physical and mental health.
Here are some areas to consider regarding our sexual health:
Know Your Resources
- Most college campuses have a range of services and resources that promote a student’s sexual health and wellbeing, including STI testing and treatment services, safer sex supplies and birth control, sexual health education, sexual identity education and support organizations, and violence prevention and response services. If your campus doesn’t offer these resources, you can find a service provider at “Get Yourself Tested” (GYT) https://gettested.cdc.gov/.
Boundaries: Know Yours & Respect Your Partner’s
- Everyone has sexual boundaries. These boundaries can include sexual behaviors you like to engage in, the types of sexual partners, or other factors for having sex. Take time to know what your boundaries are, how to communicate them to your partner(s), and be sure to ask and respect your partner’s boundaries.
Use Your Words!
- Sex is all about communicating what you want out of the experience and asking what your partner wants. These conversations can be awkward, but they will pay off in the long run. A simple question of “What are you into?” or “How does this feel?” can make or break a sexual experience.
Sex Should Feel Good
- If sex doesn’t feel good, and you’re not having a good time, say so. Tell you partner that whatever they’re doing does not feel good and they should stop. If an activity doesn’t feel good or right, stop and talk about it. Sometimes just adjusting positions or communicating what you want can make all the difference.
- If you’re sexually active with another person, you are at some level of risk for STIs. The only way to know if you have one is to get tested. And, don’t rely on looking for symptoms because most times they won’t be there. Do not freak out if you find out you have an STI. The most common STIs are curable (if you get tested for them). Listen to your healthcare provider, avoid having sex while on treatment, and complete your course of treatment.
Safer-Sex Supplies & Birth Control
- Know what you need, where to get them, and how to use them. Condoms, lube, and dental dams are usually available at your campus health center or local sexual health clinics for free or at a reduced cost. If you are using birth control, make sure you have a service provider near you where you can get refills or discuss varying options or complications you are experiencing. If you are not sure which birth control method is right for you, take this quiz to find out: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/online-tools/what-right-birth-control-me
- Don’t let other people make you feel ashamed or weird for your sexual preferences. Are you staying abstinent until marriage? Awesome! Are you more about alone time? Great, keep going. Do you hate giving hand jobs? Then tell your partner(s). Figure out what works for you, what feels good to you, what is satisfies you, and find partners who can meet your needs (if you need a partner).
Be a Sexual Scholar
- Discover something new about sexual health. Take a class or attend a seminar. Learn about the sexual and gender identities of others. Advocate for more sexual health education and resources in your chapter, campus, or local community. If you watch pornography, then take time to discuss issues related to sexual health. Join a health education student organization. There are many available ways to learn about sex and sexuality out there to explore.
Need Help? Talk to Someone.
- Feel like a hook up crossed the line last night? Concerned about a changing sense of sexual identity? Worried something isn’t working properly or you may have a problem? Find someone who can help you and talk with them about it. Most college campuses will have counselors, educators, peer mentors, and health care professionals who can provide support, care, or treatment you need.
Hopefully the areas above have made you think more about your sexual health!
Drew Kerwood currently serves as Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity’s Health and Wellness Consultant, supporting the fraternity’s harm reduction and prevention efforts through health and wellness education. He is also a graduate student at Widener University, working towards a master’s, and eventually a Ph.D., in Human Sexuality Studies, with an interest in researching sexuality identity, experiences, and values of college students. Drew has previously worked for Planned Parenthood Keystone and Delta Chi Fraternity, and he plans to continue providing sexuality education and developing curriculum in higher education after he completes his academic work.